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Forensic accountant: what the role is and how to become one

15th November 2017 Posted by: Laura Kemp

EVER heard of a forensic accountant? Does it sound to you like someone you’d expect to find at an investigative crime scene? Well, not quite. But forensic accountants are becoming an increasingly important part of our society, and here we’ll explain exactly why.

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Forensic accounting is a branch of traditional accounting, still linked to analysing taxes and auditing, but it’s a hugely important part of fighting crime and assisting the law to combat fraud and a number of other financial conflicts. Fraud generally can range in its impact, from individuals not paying the tax they are due to pay, to falsely claiming government privileges.

With fraud costing countries millions with a figure that is only growing, it’s never been so significant to have forensic accountants working to catch out those committing fraud and falsely taking away money that’s owed to the government, individuals, or businesses. The problem is only increasing with the rise of cyber-attacks, and it has been determined that the longer a fraudulent crime lasts, the more severe the financial loss caused. Essentially, no matter where we are in the world, fraud has damaging effects on society, which is why forensic accountants are ever more valuable and in demand in order to help prevent these crimes.

The primary role of a forensic accountant is to assist in preparing financial evidence and analysis for court against criminal activity. Firstly, there’s an element of investigation, and another element of providing review and consultancy in court. The job is generally varied, working on a case by case basis, and forensic accountants generally work in teams to get a job done, often dealing with lawyers, law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, government organisations, financial institutions, and other accountants to get the best analysis for a case.

 

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With the evolution of fraud to becoming something pretty complex, it’s important that those interested in getting into forensic accounting are good at planning, execution, and of course with numbers – just like those they’re trying to defeat. Having a natural curiosity for this type of crime is also extremely important, as is being able to be confidential, given the nature of the work. Typical duties include performing forensic research to trace funds, carrying out analysis of financial data, preparing reports, and testifying as required.

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Ben Affleck recently played an accountant (although admittedly the film is not a true reflection of an accountant's life) 

If you’re interested in getting into this specific line of work and helping to solve fraudulent financial crimes, it’s a good idea to first get into auditing in order to learn more about how numbers work and how they can be distributed between accounts – this, as a result, can help you to understand and be aware of those people who may be using their accounts fraudulently. Most forensic accounting roles require at least two to three years of accounting experience.


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